Christianity 201

September 11, 2018

Honoring God as Holy

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by Russell Young

Do you honor God as holy?

God condemned Moses and Aaron because of their attitude towards the one with whom they had enjoyed fellowship while leading Israel out of captivity. “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Num 20:12) Moses and Aaron had travailed in the wilderness with a rebellious people and with God leading the way. The people had become quarrelsome because they lacked water. The LORD had told Moses that he was to take his staff and Aaron and to gather the people before a rock. He was to speak to it and water would flow from the rock. However, Moses did not call upon God before the people but struck the rock twice with his staff as he made his proclamation; consequently, the LORD uttered his indictment, “You did not trust me enough to honor me as holy.

The commands of God are important. He will do as he has promised but he is to be obeyed and honored through humble obedience; he is not to ignored. Neither is he hallowed when people assume credit for his work. Moses and Aaron left out God when they struck the rock and declared, “Must we (Moses and Aaron were before the congregation.) bring water out of the rock?” (Num 20:10) They were incapable of making the rock produce water and yet they were taking credit for the work of the LORD. They had denied the holiness of God through their disobedience. The had not hallowed him.

The modern church is presented as dwelling in an age of grace. Unfortunately, the presentation of that grace has left out the need for obedience to God. However, any rejection of the commands of God is a lack of the acceptance of his holiness and of a lack of trust. He alone knows his plan for the believer and he alone has ordained the way to his eternal promised land. Believers will hear his calls, will look neither to the right nor the left and will respond in obedience. The understanding of grace that has pervaded many of the churches allows God’s grace to excuse disobedience; however, such neglect of his holiness will bring its own reward, just as it did for Moses and Aaron. Salvation, including eternal salvation, is by God’s grace, but that grace is often revealed though the obedience necessary to trust the course that he has set. God is holy and so must be his people. “Be holy: without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)

Some accept that the sacrificial offering of Christ has made them holy and that this will remain their state forever. The Word addresses the need to become holy or the need to be made holy. The writer of Hebrews has presented, “Because by that one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Heb 10:14) or to re-order the passage, ‘Those who are being made holy have been made perfect forever.’ Paul also addressed the issue, “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom 6:19)

The Spirit, who is Christ in you (Col1:27) is the means of developing holiness. “And so [God] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:34) If a person is to live according to the Spirit, he must hear the call (commands) of the Spirit, must treat the one giving the commands as being holy, and must live accordingly. Paul has also written that those who are led by the Spirit of God are not under the law (Gal 5:18), and that those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. (Rom 8:14) Christ taught that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21) and that his sheep hear his voice and follow him. (Jn 10:27)

God is holy and he must be treated with respect through the recognition of his authority and through trust in his provision, plan, and intervention in their lives. Just as Moses and Aaron disregarded God’s holiness before men and reaped loss, so will those who reject his authority and holiness and rest their hope in human philosophies and teachings that do not humbly recognize his sovereignty and glory. Those who mock God through disregard will reap destruction. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:78).


Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here alternate Tuesdays.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

 

January 21, 2016

Is God Schizophrenic?

Today we welcome a new writer to C201 and one of a very limited number of people here who I have been privileged to meet face-to-face. Russ Young’s writing focuses on ways in which the church has compromised Biblical teachings on grace and salvation and eternal life, and our one hour discussion challenged me personally in areas where my standards with respect to holiness have the propensity to become lax.

•••by Russell Young

Is God Schizophrenic? The answer is, of course not. The problem is that at least western Christianity is treating Him as if He was. That is, He is viewed as being bi-polar. In the Old Testament He is seen as being a wrathful God, bringing His anger upon the Jews for their disobedience and rebellion. In the New Testament, He is viewed as the all-forgiving, all-loving, and all-tolerant God. In the Old Testament He might be viewed as being depressive; while, in the New He is viewed as being manic. Of course, God does not change and has not changed. He is pure in all His ways and His expectations have not changed.

The issue that has distorted understanding of God and which has distorted the gospel is that of teachings concerning “grace.” The believer is saved by grace, but his eternal salvation is not unilaterally gifted as is often presented; nor does God’s grace cover sin deliberately committed following confession of faith. The Jews lived under the Covenant of the Law. Obedience to its governance was required in order to avoid God’s wrath. This was and remains so because He is supreme and He is holy. The LORD had presented the laws concerning His righteous government to Moses in stone. Defying them is defying Him…His sovereignty. He will not give His glory to another. Through them He also revealed the nature that He wanted to have established for His kingdom. To contravene His Law is to blemish the holy nature of His kingdom.

The LORD knew the heart of man and knew its inclination to evil (Genesis 6:5); consequently, He had addressed the solution to the heart problem through the presence of His Son living in the heart of man. The Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ. But now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Gal. 4:24-25, NIV) The law “supervised” so that the righteous requirements of God as revealed through the law could be maintained and His wrath avoided.

God Has Not ChangedGod has not changed. He still has the same righteous requirements and will continue to visit His wrath upon the disobedient and the rebellious. His “grace” does not cover these challenges to His authority and holiness. Paul writes, Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him. (Romans 5:9-10, NIV) We ought not be confused concerning this matter. His wrath is avoided through Him…the exercise of His life in the believer.

The avoidance of His wrath is NOT through His death but through His life. Paul wrote that the mystery of God which had been kept hidden for ages and generations is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1: 27) The wrath of God is avoided through the life of Christ within the believer…by the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) It is the Spirit who will lead in the pursuit of, and if obeyed, the achievement of righteousness leading to holiness. And so God condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Ro. 8:3-4, NIV) And Peter wrote:His divine power [the Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV)

According to Peter we have all that we need in order to avoid God’s wrath and that comes through obedience to the Spirit (Heb. 5:9) Paul told the Corinthians: He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) God’s grace does not give anyone eternal life. It removes his “past sins” and upon confession of Christ’s lordship allows him the enjoyment of the covenant of the Spirit. (Heb. 9:15)

Those who accept that they have been freed from God’s wrath while sin is being practiced will have a surprise one day. They will come under judgment for their rebellion and disobedience. Paul taught, For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one might receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV) the Lord revealed, The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) One’s separation from Christ is dependent upon one’s actions. The things he does and the unlawful things that he causes to happen.

God’s kingdom will be righteous and will contain those who are righteous. His righteous expectations have not changed. His grace does NOT unilaterally allow one escape from His wrath. He is not schizophrenic but is constant in His being and in His expectations. The manner in which righteousness is achieved has changed but not its need. God’s grace, allowed for the incarnation of His Son. It allowed for His Son to bring the word of truth. It provided Christ, an unblemished lamb, as a sacrifice for sin. His grace allows for the gifting of the Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower the believer in a righteous walk. It provides Christ as high priest to mediate for sins committed in ignorance and for confessed sin. The grace of God does not gift eternal salvation but provides all that is necessary for it. Eternal salvation comes through “obedience” (Heb. 5:9) which produces holiness. (Romans 6:22)

May 14, 2014

Does God Hate Some People?

Psalm 5:5 The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies…

Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.

While it is true that doctrinally, sin has separated us from God, there is a lot of confusion in the broader society leaving people with the impression that God hates them specifically.   Jerry Bridges addresses this in Holiness Day by Day:

It’s difficult for us to conceive of God’s holy hatred toward people. But this is simply his just and holy revulsion against sin and his holy antagonism toward those who rebel against him.

It is so important that in our contacts with people we uphold the principle that it’s sin that God hates.

Proverbs 6:16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Michael Houdmann writes:

The question that begs to be answered at this point is why does God hate these things? God hates them because they are contrary to His nature—God’s nature being holy, pure and righteous. In fact, David writes, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 emphasis added). God is holy and hates sin. If He did not hate sin, He would not be holy.

In the Second Testament, John frequently raises the issue of the light/darkness, love/hate contrast. If God hates sin, then sinners often (or always) hate the light.

John 3:20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Not only is this intensity of emotion a seemingly reciprocal relationship, it is also sometimes assumed.

Deuteronomy 1:26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. …”

Some will want to point out here that sometimes the use of the word hate is hyperbole, such as:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Does such a parent truly hate his kids. No, but the passage illustrates the degree a father or mother is depriving the child of the best by not teaching them discipline.  A similar use of hyperbole is found in the New Testament:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is demonstrating the degree of sacrifice necessary to be a follower, but we do know from other teaching that Jesus held care and concern for family in high regard. He is simply saying that by comparison they should hate; not literallyKyle Butt writes:

How, then, can one reconcile the verses that seem to suggest that God hates sinners, but loves them at the same time? One of the most plausible solutions is that the Bible writers are using a figure of speech called metonymy when they write that God hates sinners. Metonymy is defined as: “A figure by which one name or noun is used instead of another, to which it stands in a certain relation”

Our best response to those who think that God hates them is probably this verse:

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

In other words, even while we were in our sinful state, Christ offers a way out.

Kyle Butt writes:

Any person who has read the Bible understands that one of its greatest themes is love. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). It also explains that God showed His love to us while we were still sinners:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

An interesting aspect of this passage is that it stresses that lost sinners were not “righteous” or “good” when Christ demonstrated His love for them.

In the narrative of the rich young ruler, Jesus explained that the young man lacked something necessary to be pleasing to God. Yet even though the young man was lacking and lost, the Bible says that Jesus “loved him” (Mark 10:21). When Jesus mourned over lost Jerusalem, He cried:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37).

Jesus said His affection for the lost inhabitants of Jerusalem was like a mother hen’s affection for her chicks. Such a statement obviously denotes love for the sinners in Jerusalem.

 

November 27, 2013

Classic A. W. Tozer Devotional

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2 Chronicles 6:41   “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness.

Today’s excerpt from the teachings of A. W. Tozer was sourced at the blog, The Gospel Mirror, where it appeared earlier this week under the title, The Goodness of God.

Do good in Thy good pleasure unto us, O Lord. Act toward us not as we deserve but as it becomes Thee, being the God Thou art. So shall we have nothing to fear in this world or in that which is to come. Amen.

The word good means so many things to so many persons that this brief study of the divine goodness begins with a definition. The meaning may be arrived at only by the use of a number of synonyms, going out from and returning by different paths to the same place.

A W TozerWhen Christian theology says that God is good, it is not the same as saying that He is righteous or holy. The holiness of God is trumpeted from the heavens and re-echoed on earth by saints and sages wherever God has revealed Himself to men; however, we are not at this time considering His holiness but His goodness, which is quite another thing.

The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.

That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and must be received as an article of faith as impregnable as the throne of God. It is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God and is necessary to moral sanity. To allow that God could be other than good is to deny the validity of all thought and end in the negation of every moral judgement. If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven can be hell and hell, heaven.

The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon us. God created us because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed us for the same reason.

Divine goodness, as one of God’s attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect, and eternal. Since God is immutable He never varies in the intensity of His loving-kindness. He has never been kinder than He now is, nor will He ever be less kind. He is no respecter of persons but makes His sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust. The cause of His goodness is in Himself; the recipients of His goodness are all His beneficiaries without merit and without recompense.

With this agrees reason, and the moral wisdom that knows itself runs to acknowledge that there can be no merit in human conduct, not even in the purest and the best. Always God’s goodness is the ground of our expectation. Repentance, though necessary, is not meritorious but a condition for receiving the gracious gift of pardon which God gives of His goodness. Prayer is not in itself meritorious. It lays God under no obligation nor puts Him in debt to any. He hears prayer because He is good, and for no other reason. Nor is faith meritorious; it is simply confidence in the goodness of God, and the lack of it is not a reflection upon God’s holy character.

The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.

But sin has made us timid and self-conscious, as well it might. Years of rebellion against God have bred in us a fear that cannot be overcome in a day. The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. But if he is truly penitent he may come, trusting only in the loving-kindness of his Lord, and the past will not be held against him.

Now someone who in spite of his past sins honestly wants to become reconciled to God may cautiously inquire,

“If I come to God, how will He act toward me? What kind of disposition has He? What will I find Him to be like?”

The answer is that He will be found to be exactly like Jesus. “He that hath seen me,” said Jesus, “hath seen the Father.”

Christ walked with men on earth that He might show them what God is like and make known the true nature of God to a race that had wrong ideas about Him. This was only one of the things He did while here in the flesh, but this He did with beautiful perfection.

From Him we learn how God acts toward people. The hypocritical, the basically insincere, will find Him cold and aloof, as they once found Jesus; but the penitent will find Him merciful; the self-condemned will find Him generous and kind. To the frightened He is friendly, to the poor in spirit He is forgiving, to the ignorant, considerate; to the weak, gentle; to the stranger, hospitable.

By our own attitudes we may determine our reception by Him. Though the kindness of God is an infinite, overflowing fountain of cordiality, God will not force His attention upon us. If we would be welcomed as the Prodigal was, we must come as the Prodigal came; and when we so come, even though the Pharisees and the legalists sulk without, there will be a feast of welcome within, and music and dancing as the Father takes His child again to His heart.

The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid – that is the paradox of faith.